Constructing Better Health - Fitness for Task Standards
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Asbestos Medical Examination Requirements
Medical Examinations to Comply with Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
The HSE has revised the Control of Asbestos Regulations. This means that the UK Regulations are now fully compliant with the European Commission’s directive on the protection of workers from the risks related to exposure to asbestos at work.
The revisions introduce a new category of asbestos work, known as ‘Notifiable Non-Licensed Work (NNLW).’ Workers in this category will be exempt from requirements to hold a licence. However, employers are required to notify NNLW with asbestos to the relevant enforcing authority and maintain registers of work (health records). All workers carrying out NNLW must have a medical examination.
Medical Examination Requirements
To comply with the revisions, all workers carrying out NNLW must have a medical examination to assess their state of health. The examination will need to be repeated every 3 years, for as long as the worker continues to do NNLW. Those workers who begin NNLW after April 2015 will be required to have a medical examination prior to beginning NNLW.
The medical examination must be carried out by a licensed medical practitioner and comply with the following:
• The medical examination should include an examination of the chest and a lung function test.
• Medical examinations should be carried out in work time at the employer’s expense.
• The fee should be agreed with the doctor before the examination is carried out.
• The doctor must issue a certificate to confirm the examination has taken place and on what date.
The employer needs to keep this certificate for 40 years.
Those workers already under surveillance via a licensed contractor and in possession of a valid certificate do not need to have the NNLW medical.
The Occupational Disease Burden
Occupational disease is a big problem. For some workers this can mean they experience life altering and in some cases premature life ending illness.
In 2011/12 there were an estimated 1.1 million working people suffering from a work-related illness, with around 450,000 new cases of occupational related ill health and a further estimated 12,000 deaths each year caused by past exposures to harmful substances at work.
Traditionally, health issues in the workplace have been, and still are, harder to tackle than safety issues because cause and effect are often not clearly linked.
While some cases of ill health are clearly related to work activity, for others the cause may be less clear. Many serious occupational diseases also have a long period of ‘latency’, some up to 30 years, between exposure and development of ill health and/or disease, making the links even more difficult to establish. This also means that after recognising the problem and making changes in working practices to reduce exposure there may be a long delay before a reduction in the causes of ill health and death are seen.
However, where the link is established and exposure can be measured then interventions and activities aimed at raising awareness and creating behavioural change can work to reduce exposures and prevent ill health and disease.
What’s Happening Now?
There is already lots of work going on by public, private and third sector organisations to tackle occupational disease. The HSE want to build on this work, by encouraging the promotion and exchange of ideas and the generation of novel initiatives through these web pages and the occupational disease community site.
The focus will be on two key priority areas:
- respiratory diseases (including asthma, COPD and silicosis); and
- occupational cancer (from all routes of exposure).
Why These Priority Areas?
There are many different types of occupational disease including:
- respiratory diseases e.g. asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- skin diseases
- asbestos related disease
- noise induced hearing damage
- hand-arm vibration syndrome
- musculoskeletal disease
Given the range of diseases and broad scope of industries involved we are focusing on work that is aimed at tackling respiratory diseases and occupational cancers either because there are potentially lots of workers likely to be exposed or there is evidence of a high incidence rate of disease.
More information on these two priority areas can be found on the HSE's cancer priorities page or therespiratory disease priority page.
Have Your Say – Do Employees Know Why They Are Referred to OH?
HWAAS (Health at Work Assessment and Advisory Services) has launched a new ‘tea breaker’ poll this month. It asks whether employees really understand why they are referred for occupational health care by their organisation. If you would like to take part in this poll, follow the link to the HWAAS newsletter:
Asbestos Drive to Cut Death Toll of 20 Deaths Per Week
CBH is always keen to share the latest initiatives combating the detrimental effects of work- related ill health. Construction Enquirer reports that the British Lung Foundation is launching a major asbestos campaign this week in a bid to cut the current toll of 20 construction workers a week dying from the effects of exposure.
Legal News – Work Related Health Enforcements and Prosecutions.
CBH tries to share industry news about legal enforcements pertaining to work-related health.